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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 478:127-138 (2013)  -  DOI:

Diurnal photosynthetic response of the motile symbiotic benthic foraminiferan Marginopora vertebralis

Sutinee Sinutok1, Ross Hill2,*, Martina A. Doblin1, Peter J. Ralph1

1Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales 2007, Australia
2Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation and Sydney Institute of Marine Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Movement of the symbiont-bearing foraminiferan Marginopora vertebralis and photophysiological response to diurnal fluctuations in irradiance were investigated in field and laboratory experiments. The abundance of M. vertebralis from both light-exposed and sheltered habitats was determined 5 times during the day, from pre-dawn to post-dusk. M. vertebralis abundance was significantly higher in sheltered compared to exposed habitats at midday under high irradiance, and this movement enabled the algal symbionts to avoid excessive photoinhibition. The diurnal changes in photosynthetic efficiency were not consistent with the typical midday solar maximum downregulation of photosystem II observed in other photoautotrophs and was likely due to the negatively phototactic capacity of the foraminifera. To confirm the light-dependent movement of foraminifera, individuals in exposed and sheltered habitats were exposed to the photosynthetic inhibitor 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea (DCMU) in the laboratory. The lack of movement in DCMU-exposed specimens confirmed light-dependent movement and subsequent disruption of signalling between the host foraminiferan and the algal symbionts. Analysis of chlorophyll and xanthophyll pigments, as well as symbiont density, indicated that under high irradiance, foraminiferal symbionts have the capacity to reduce light stress by activating photoprotective mechanisms. The negatively phototactic behaviour prevented chlorophyll degradation, symbiont loss and bleaching, suggesting that it is the primary mechanism for controlling light exposure in these foraminifera. This behaviour provides a competitive advantage over other sessile organisms in avoiding photoinhibition and bleaching by moving away from over-saturating irradiance, towards less damaging light fields.

KEY WORDS: Phototaxis · Chlorophyll fluorescence · Symbiotic algae · Symbiodinium

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Cite this article as: Sinutok S, Hill R, Doblin MA, Ralph PJ (2013) Diurnal photosynthetic response of the motile symbiotic benthic foraminiferan Marginopora vertebralis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 478:127-138.

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